ISD 709 News 3/19/21

From Superintendent John Magas

Dear Families,

With tomorrow being the first day of Spring, it is a time of new beginnings, as well as reflection on the past.

As noted in the board recognition below, this week marks the one year anniversary of the closure of our schools due to the COVID pandemic. Our gratitude for the unparalleled effort that our students, staff, and families have dedicated to make sure that quality learning occurs, despite the challenges, can’t be overstated.

As the world was changing around us, it was also one year ago today that I had my first interview with Duluth. Despite having to do it through Google Meet, the positive nature, deep level of caring, and commitment that the community has for our schools was so impressive. I remember sitting in my wife’s basement office, with notes taped on the wall behind the laptop, hoping so much that I had the chance to come here and work for our students and community.

Another interview and a year later, I look out over the freshly melted lake and am reminded how pleased I am to live in Duluth and serve as superintendent. It has been a hard year, no doubt. A friend of mine says that this year is like a dog year , because it counts for seven years as experience. I fully realize that I have asked for more than seemed possible or fair, and that at one time or another, I have probably upset nearly every employee or parent in the district. But please know that when I have done so, it has always been with the intention to make the best decision in very tough times - balancing the needs of safety and learning.

A year ago, our schools were shut down and emergency learning plans went into effect, doing the best we could at the time. Now, as a new season begins, all students who want 4 days of in-person and all students who want high-quality distance learning will have that choice.

On the cusp of emerging from the pandemic, we have new and important work to do. Reimagining education to ensure equity for each learner will be a challenging yet worthwhile journey. But if there is one thing I have learned walking up the hills of the Central Hillside, it’s that Duluthians are strong. We have survived difficult times and are coming out more resilient from the experience. We have the courage to transform education and we will be better for it.

With deep respect and appreciation,

John Magas

If you have questions or thoughts about what's going on in our school district, email:


One Year Later - Recognizing Staff, Students, Families

This month the Duluth School Board recognized the work of Duluth Public Schools employees, students and families in response to the pandemic. Jill Lofald, Chairperson, presented the following remarks:

One year ago this month, in response to COVID-19, school districts across the state and country began a journey like no other.

Here in Duluth, schools emptied of students, teachers and all but the essential workers necessary to provide food, childcare and keep buildings clean and safe.

Almost overnight, our district and school leaders, teachers and staff had to create a plan to provide education & family support while students stayed home.

The pandemic brought fear and uncertainty. The learning curve was huge. There were so many times when our staff and families wondered how they would rise to meet challenge after challenge after challenge.

But rise they did. And today, one year later, we have much to celebrate.

We learned how to keep our buildings and bodies healthy and safe with masks, social distancing, cleaning, handwashing. We learned how to teach children differently and feed them differently. We learned about contact tracing, testing, quarantining and how to conduct meetings virtually.

Most importantly, we learned that we’re stronger together.

Thanks to the diligence of our Duluth community, local COVID rates are down. Through teamwork, thoughtful planning and heroic effort by ISD 709 staff and teachers, students are back in our buildings. Elementaries provide in-person learning five days a week. Our middle and high schools launched hybrid this month and will soon move to 4 day in-person learning. Distance learners are supported. Most staff who want to be vaccinated have received their first shot.

As this historic journey continues - and we know it’s not over - the Duluth School Board recognizes and commends the staff, students and families of ISD 709. To each and every person who works for and in support of our schools, thank you. To our Duluth community, thank you for lifting up our students, staff and families.

#Inspire709 #WeCanNorthland


This week Denfeld, Duluth East, Lincoln Park and Ordean East middle and high schools welcomed grades 7, 8, 10 and 11 who are taking part in hybrid learning.

It's a pleasure to see students in our school buildings again after nearly a year away. Principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, facilities, clerical, cafeteria, transportation staff, district leaders and many others have been working hard to prepare for this day, as have families. Many thanks to all as we move forward.

We continue to plan for and work toward a secondary 4 day in-person schedule beginning the week of March 29.

  • Week of March 22: Continue with secondary hybrid.
  • Week of March 29: Begin transition to four day in-person schedule.
    • March 29 & 30: Transition Days per state guidelines (no hybrid or distance learning at secondary)
    • April 1 & 2: In-Person Student Days
  • Week of April 5: In-Person Student Days
  • Families may choose to continue in all distance learning if they wish.

Additional Information:

  • Currently, the 4 Day model would run Mon/Tues and Thurs/Friday.
  • Wed would be a day to support distance learning and content development.
  • High school bell times: 9:45AM - 3:25PM
  • Middle school bell times: 9:30AM - 3:15PM

Secondary Hybrid, In-Person Web

Lead School Nurse COVID Update - Quarantine

From Crystal Diehl, MSN, RN, PHN

Lead School Nurse

Greetings, Duluth Public Schools Community - We have updated quarantine information from the MN Department of Education and MN Department of Health.

Please check this link for the detailed COVID update.

It includes:

  • COVID-19 Vaccine Quarantine Guidance
  • Quarantine for Close Contact
  • COVID-19 Testing for Kids and Families
  • Student COVID-19 Testing Update
  • Travel Guidance
  • COVID-19 Daily Screening and Staying Home Guidance

We appreciate your efforts and support as we work together to keep our school community as safe as possible.

More From the MN Department of Health

We're Hiring!

Clerical, paraprofessional, transportation, substitutes - check online for details and other job opportunities!


In The News

WDIO-TV10: Superintendent John Magas talked with WDIO about the Governor's new COVID guidelines and the prospects for more in-person activities, including prom and graduation.

KQDS-TV21: Superintendent John Magas, talking with Fox 21 News about the important role substitutes play in supporting our schools.

WDIO-TV10: Lead School Nurse Crystal Diehl talked with WDIO about the importance of COVID testing for students and student athletes.

Deb Hannu, Duluth Public Schools Art Educator, is part of School of Arts Leaders (SAL), 2019 which will be recognized at the National Art Education Association Virtual Convention in March.

The event includes remarks and a national awards presentation by President Thom Knab, the artist Andres Hernandez will share his story, Executive Director Mario Rossero will highlight the next generation Strategic Vision, and the program will finish with Regional and Divisional Awards. Hannu's group will present on their leadership journeys since their SAL experience, with each focused on one of the leadership "voices" (Personal, Collaborative, Organizational, and Public). Hannu to the Collaborative Voice of developing competencies for leading others.



Duluth Boys Swim Section Champs, State Bound

Duluth Boys Swim Team (Denfeld & Duluth East) repeated as Section Champions for the first time in school history!
>>Grant Wodny set a new Section Record in winning the 200 Free and also won the 500 free.
>>Joe Rudd qualified for the state swim meet in winning the 100 fly and finishing 2nd in the 100 breast.

>>200 free relay of Ezra Schomberg, KJ Pry, Dylan Manchester and Grant Wodny finished 2nd and qualified for state.
>>400 free relay team of Grant Wodny, Aiden Yung, Dylan Manchester and Joe Rudd finished first and qualified for the state meet.

In all, every swimmer and diver on the roster scored points and had a top 16 finish. Altogether, the team had 36 individual entries in the meet and had 34 of those races finish in the top 16 (out of 32 swimmers in each event) which scores points for the team.

Thank you, Cliff Knettel, for the photo and information.




Award-Winning Lester Park Robotics Teams

Two Lester Park FIRST Lego League Robotics teams had an amazing showing at Sectionals. The "Spaceotics?" and "Not Rocket Science" teams competed virtually, showing the judges how their robot works and presenting a research project on ways to get people more active. Spaceotics? walked away with two awards, in their division, for Top Robot Performance and Robot Design. They are earned a spot at the FLL State Competition.

"Not Rocket Science" received two awards in their division, the Programming Award and Robot Performance Award.

Congratulations to these two LEGO Robotics teams!

Thank you, Kate Hall, for the photos and information.



Ordean East Students Earn Top Spots in MN State PTA Reflections Art Program

During a year filled with change and unique challenges the annual PTA Reflections Art Program continued to encourage students to express themselves through the arts. This year's theme: "I Matter Because.."

Three Ordean East Middle School students placed top in the Minnesota State PTA Reflections Art Program and two students have advanced to Nationals, congratulations!

Visual Arts

1st - Annika Saur


1st - Molly McNamee

2nd - Abigale Froehle

The visual art and literature pieces from the two 1st Place winners, Annika Saur and Molly McNamee, move on to compete in the National PTA Reflections Program. Winners will be announced in the beginning of May.

Thank you, Angel Sarkela-Saur, for the photo and information.

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